Derby County in turmoil: Club loses EFL legal dispute and faces possible points deduction next season

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Derby County lose EFL legal dispute and face possible points deduction next season - PA
Derby County lose EFL legal dispute and face possible points deduction next season - PA

Derby County have been plunged into further turmoil after the Football League confirmed it had won an appeal over misconduct charges, while the Championship club lost their bitter legal row with former captain Richard Keogh.

In addition, Spanish businessman Erik Alonso’s proposed takeover bid still appears in severe doubt, after he deleted his Twitter account hours after being accused of reusing footage of a large property included in a TikTok video to claim it was his own house.

Alonso has claimed he is close to a takeover but there remain huge concerns over the source of his funding, and he was ridiculed yesterday after it emerged that a lavish home which was supposedly his property was revealed to belong to an estate agent in Los Angeles.

Derby are facing a possible points deduction next season after the EFL issued a statement confirming it had won an appeal over a charge of breaching financial rules.

The charge relates to Derby’s policy over the amortisation of intangible assets – how the purchase price of a player is spread over a contract – and sanctions were initially dropped earlier this year. But the EFL appeal has proved successful and another drawn-out dispute is now inevitable, with Derby facing punishment if they are found guilty by an independent disciplinary commission.

An EFL statement said: “The [independent league arbitration] panel concluded that the disciplinary commission was wrong to dismiss the league’s expert accountancy evidence, which demonstrated that the club’s policy regarding the amortisation of player registrations was contrary to standard accounting rules.

“The club and EFL will now have the opportunity to make submissions on the appropriate sanction arising out of those breaches.

“Despite media speculation there is no definitive timescale for a determination on sanction, though the league will press for a decision as soon as reasonably possible and will provide a further update at the appropriate time.”

Though Derby cannot appeal against the decision, they can challenge any sanctions which may follow which raises the prospect of any action taking place next season.

Derby said they were “disappointed” with the decision, which comes almost 18 months after they were charged.

“The club accepts but is disappointed with the LAP’s conclusion on the one ground that the EFL succeeded on,” said a statement.

“The club and the EFL have agreed that the matter shall now be remitted back to the original DC [disciplinary commission] who can determine what, if any, consequences arise from the partial success of the EFL’s amortisation charge, and the club is therefore currently unable to comment further.”

Derby claim the reason the appeal took so long was because of issues raised by Middlesbrough and then the EFL, each of which was dismissed, and had this not occurred the issue would have been concluded last year.

They also face paying out around £2 million to Keogh, the Republic of Ireland international who was sacked in October 2019 for gross misconduct.

Keogh was dismissed over his involvement in a car crash following a team bonding night out. He sustained a serious knee injury after team-mate Tom Lawrence crashed his Range Rover Sport into a lamppost, following a night out in September 2019. He is now playing for Huddersfield Town.

The 34-year-old had initially won an appeal at the EFL’s Player Related Dispute Commission (PRDC) but that had been contested by Derby at the League Appeals Committee (LAC). The LAC has now upheld the original verdict.

The EFL said in a statement: “The PDRC held that Mr Keogh had not committed gross misconduct, that he had not brought the club into serious disrepute and that he had been wrongly dismissed.”

Managed by England’s record goalscorer Wayne Rooney, Derby avoided relegation to League One on the final day of this season by one point, staying up at the expense of Sheffield Wednesday, Wycombe Wanderers and Rotherham.

Derby County have lost their latest legal dispute with the Football League and are facing punishment which includes a possible points deduction next season.

In a development which could have huge ramifications for the Championship club, who avoided relegation by one point on Saturday, the Football League has announced it has won its appeal over a charge of breaching financial rules.

The charge relates to Derby’s policy over the amortisation of intangible assets - how the purchase price of a player is spread over a contract - and sanctions were initially dropped earlier this year.

But the EFL appealed, with the hearing held over the weekend of March 20-21, and the verdict by an independent disciplinary commission has now been delivered. Furthermore, relegated clubs including Wycombe are monitoring the situation and have not ruled out legal action.

A statement from the EFL read: “An Independent League Arbitration Panel has allowed the EFL’s appeal against the outcome of an independent Disciplinary Commission in respect of misconduct charges brought against Derby County.

“The panel concluded that the Disciplinary Commission was wrong to dismiss the League’s expert accountancy evidence, which demonstrated that the club’s policy regarding the amortisation of player registrations was contrary to standard accounting rules.

“More specifically, the panel determined that the club’s policy was not in accordance with accounting standard FRS102 because it failed to accurately reflect the manner in which the club takes the benefit of player registrations over the lifetime of a player’s contract.”

The EFL added that it will push for a new decision “as soon as reasonably possible”.

It added: “The original Disciplinary Commission had already concluded that the club did not adequately disclose in its financial statements the nature and or effect of its change in accounting policy, and there has been no appeal against that decision.

“The club and EFL will now have the opportunity to make submissions on the appropriate sanction arising out of those breaches.”

After a lengthy wait for the appeal hearing verdict to be delivered, Derby County said: “The reason the EFL’s appeal took so long to determine was because of three separate preliminary issues raised by Middlesbrough FC and then the EFL, each of which required hearings and decisions by the LAP, and each of which was dismissed with the club being successful. Had Middlesbrough and the EFL not brought those preliminary issues the appeal could have been determined in 2020.

“The club accepts but is disappointed with the LAP’s conclusion on the one ground that the EFL succeeded on. The Club and the EFL have agreed that the matter shall now be remitted back to the original DC who can determine what, if any, consequences arise from the partial success of the EFL’s Amortisation charge, and the Club is therefore currently unable to comment further.”

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